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 Pilon Fracture

ICD-9 Classification / Treatment / ORIF / Ex Fix
Etiology / Epidemiology / Natural History Associated Injuries / Differential Diagnosis
Anatomy Complications
Clinical Evaluation Follow-up Care
Xray / Diagnositc Tests Review References

synonyms: Tibial Plafond Fracture,

Pilon Fracture ICD-9

  • 823.80(closed fracture of unspecified part of tibia)
  • 823.81(closed fracture lower leg NOS; fibula alone)
  • 823.82 (closed fracture lower leg NOS; fibula with tibia)
  • 823.90(open fracture of unspecified part of tibia)
  • 823.91(open fracture of unspecified part fibula alone)
  • 823.92 (Unspecified part, open, fibula with tibia)

Pilon Fracture Etiology / Epidemiology / Natural History

  • Pilon fractures are fractures involving the articular weight bearing surface of the distal tibia.
  • Usually high energy axial load (MVC, fall from height), occasionally low-energy rotation/torsion
  • Foot postion determines fracture pattern: if plantar flexed = posterior tibial fragment, neutral = entire articular surface, dorsiflexed=anterior fragments
  • 7-10% of tibial fractures

Pilon Fracture Anatomy

  • Distal tibia fractures within 5cm of the ankle

Pilon Fracture Clinical Evaluation

Pilon Fracture Xray

  • A/P, lateral and mortise views of the ankle; A/P, lateral tibia films
  • CT scan indicated for pre-op planning,  CT scans should be done in traction with 3D reconstructions.

Pilon Fracture Classification/Treatment

  • Soft tissues injuries are classified according to Tscherne and Gotzen.
  • Open fracture classified per Gustilo and Anderson.
  • Principles of Treatment: restoration of fibular length, anatomic reduction of tibial articular surface, bone grafting of metaphyseal defects, medial buttress plating to prevent varus
  • Treatment: initial fixation of the fibula with temporary spanning external fixation with delayed conversion to internal fixation when soft tissues permit, generally 14-21 days. See Pilon ORIF / Ex Fix Technique.
  • closed fractures should be placed in calcaneal traction and a Bohler-Braun frame.
  • open fractures/compartment syndromes should be taken to OR for 2-pin traveling traction. (one 6mm centrally threaded calcaneal pin and one proximal tibia pin at level of the fibular head with quadrilateral frame.
  • AO comprehensive Classification of Fractures of long Bones
  • Ruedi Allgower Classification (Ruedi TP, Allgower M CORR 1979;138:105).
  • Type A=extra-articular=@92% good/excellent results, Type B=partial articular=@85% good/excellent results, Type C=complete articular=@60% good/excellent results
  • poor results associated with high-grade soft-tissue injury, >2mm articular incongruency, malalignment of mechanical axis >5degrees
  • Reudi-Allgower Classification: Type I & II = 86% excellent to good results nonuniomn =7%, malunion=3%, wound dehiscence=17% Type II&III high energy=wound problems and deep infection uto 37%, malunion=23%, nonunion=27%.  Tscherne grades 0 or 1 best treated with AO/ASIF technique plating, femoral distractor often helpful for indirect reduction.
  • Tsherne 2 & 3 and open fx best treated with limited open fixation(olive wires/canulated screws) for articular reduction and small wire circular external fixation.
  • AO Classification

Pilon Fracture Associated Injuries / Differential Diagnosis

  • 1/3 associated with concomitant fx or organ injuries
  • 10-50% open injuries
  • 3-9% eventually require arthrodesis due to secondary arthrosis

Pilon Fracture Complications

  • Infection
  • wound breakdown
  • nonunion
  • malunion
  • Posttraumatic arthritis

Pilon Fracture Follow up  care

  • nonweightbearing at least 6wks generally 12 weeks., Ankle and subtalar ROM exercises.
  • ORIF = 6 wks slc
  • external fixation = early ROM exercises, WB advanced at 6wks, FWB before removal, dynamize 1-2 wks before removal.  Average fixator time is 15wks.  Cast for 1-2wks after fixator removal.
  • (Pollok AN, JBJS 2003;85A:1893).
  • (Marsh JL, JBJS 2003;85A:287).

Pilon Fracture References

  1. Rockwood and Greens
  2. Watson JT, Pilon Fractures, Clin Orthop, 375:78-90, 2000
  3. Watson JT, Tibial Pilon Fractues, Techniques in Orthopaedics, 11:150-159, 1996
  4. Gustilo RB, Anderson JT: Prevention of infection in the treatment of one thousand and twenty-five open fractures of long bones. JBJS 58A:453-458, 1976
  5. Tsherne H, Gotzen L: Fractures with Soft Tissue Injuries. Monograph 1-58. Berlin, Springer-Verlag 1984.
  6. Leone VJ, Ruland RT, Meinhard BP: The management of the soft tissues in pilon fractures.  Clin Orthop 1993;292:315-320.
  7. Thordarson DB, complications of tibial pilon fx: prevention and management strategies/ JAAOS 2000;8:253
  8. March JL, Bonar S, Nepola JV, Decoster TA, Hurwitz SR; Use of an articulated Ex Fx for fx of the tibial plafond JBJS 77AL1498:1995
  9. Wyrsch B, McFerran MA, McAndrew M, et al: Operative treatment of fractures of the tibial plafond: A randomized, prospective study.  J Bone Joint Surg 1996;78A:1646-1657.
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